When you see one of the last on screen performances of one of our most prominent and important actors of the modern age it is always a sad thing, not only for the loss of the man but for the performances that have been taken from us far too soon. "A Most Wanted Man" isn't a sexy but it is a damn fine spy thriller that reminds of how Philip Seymour Hoffman was taken from us far, far too soon.
Geo politics are always a complicated affair so when a half Chechen, half Russian illegal immigrant sneaks into Hamburg looking to lay claim to his late father's fortune and embeds himself in the local Islamic community it sends up a bunch of red flags for both the right and the wrong reasons. Both US & German intelligence agencies are taking a great interest in this man, but while a German team led by veteran wildcard investigator Günter Bachmann (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is taking the longer view on trying to make the world a better place, his superiors and mysterious American agent Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) are looking for the quick win and the commendation and promotion that go along with it. As the stakes get higher, the questions get even deeper as we wonder if this man is just a displaced victim of an oppressive regime or a radical terrorist hell bent on destruction.
Adapted from the novel by John Le Carre, this effort from director Anton Corbijn might not be the sleek and sexy political thriller that some people may want, but it is a highly intelligent and high quality affair with a fantastic leading performance.
With an assured style and flare, Anton Corbijn continues his streak of stellar work that has the look and the feel of a period piece even though being set in present day. He crafts a mysterious world up and down the streets of Hamburg that isn't always the prettiest but it is most certainly compelling. A smart narrative that isn't about getting from Point A to Point B as screenwriter Andrew Bovell adapts this John le Carre novel giving it enough of a 21st century spin without losing the cold war paranoia that just makes it all so damn gripping. Corbijn weaves it all into a masterful tapestry that is deliberate and gripping as it moves through every single frame led by a simply masterful performer.
As the haggard, run down and misanthropic Günter Bachmann, Phillip Seymour Hoffman delivers a masterful turn as government warrior and official who never cared about playing the political game and only wants to do the right thing. He dives into the part and we can feel how he is barely held together and is actually a little sad considering how he died. Robin Wright never gets enough for being an enigmatic force to be reckoned with on the screen and she does a fine job here playing opposite Hoffman both in concert and against him and it made for a fantastic dynamic. Rachel McAdams surprises as a socially conscience lawyer while Willem Dafoe is his usually solid self as Daniel Bruhl and Nina Hoss round out this quality ensemble to the point that even when the North American actors drop their German actors, the material is just so good that we just don't care.
When it comes right down to it, "A Most Wanted Man" is not a sexy thriller, but it is a vital one that makes for one hell of a piece of gripping cinema that harkens back to the Cold War thrillers that this fan grew up on.
4 out of 5 stars.
"A Most Wanted Man" opens in theatres across Canada tomorrow, please check with local listings for show times.